Conflict is inevitable in all walks of life, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or heated. In fact, some conflict can be good so long as it’s solved in a respectful manner. Here are 15 tips to help you solve your conflicts more effectively.
1. Respect the other people and/or parties, especially during a conflict. This should go without saying: treat people with respect. You can disagree with someone else’s point of view without being rude about it. Furthermore, just because you disagree with someone else’s opinion doesn’t mean that you dislike them.
2. Think about what you will say and how you will say it. Speaking without thought is always a mistake. Carefully consider what you’re planning on saying and how you’re going to say it. Inflection and tone can completely change the meaning of a statement.
3. Encourage cooperation rather than competition. Contrary to popular American beliefs, not everything is a competition. It’s not about “winning” or “losing” and argument; it’s about coming to an amicable resolution to preserve a relationship, be it a friendship, employee conflict, marriage, or otherwise.
4. Don’t assume conflict is bad. As I’ve stated before, conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you come into a conflict assuming that it’s “bad” then nothing good will come of it. Have a positive outlook and hope for a positive solution.
5. Use active and empathic listening. Actually pay attention to what the other person is saying. There is another article on ConflictResolution regarding on how to listen authentically.
6. Allow outside input. If you and the other party are having trouble coming to a resolution, don’t be afraid of allowing a mediator, arbitrator, or neutral come in to examine the problem and give an objective, non-biased opinion.
7. Admit your mistakes. If you made some mistakes or otherwise contributed to the conflict, you need to admit that. Placing all the blame onto the other party and not taking personal responsibility for your own mistakes will only lead to more issues.
8. Avoid assumptions. Making an assumption is a step down the path to confusion. If you aren’t totally sure about something, just ask. It’s not a sign of weakness or stupidity to ask clarifying questions and you may even figure out that the conflict isn’t about what you thought it was at all.
9. Use diplomacy. “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Try to see things from you opponent’s point of view and make sure you understand their side of the argument. Show the other party and you want to resolve the issue in a win-win way and they’ll be much more willing to work with you.
10. Embrace diversity. One of the best ways to make progress is to have a number of different and diverse opinions on a matter. That way, you can take the best suggestions from each and come to a more comprehensive and inclusive solution — and one bound to make more people happy if they feel like they were heard.
11. Put the emphasis on the problem and not the people. Remember, the other party is not your enemy. The problem is the enemy, and you’ve got to work together to solve it. If you take on a combative stance with the other party, you’re only going to make things worse.
12. Don’t be afraid to use humor to diffuse tense situations. If things start getting tense, making a quick joke can help to relax everyone again. Make sure that the butt of the joke is either yourself or the problem and not the other person.
13. Look at the bigger picture and make sure the conflict is one worth having. Simply put, there are some conflicts and arguments that aren’t worth having. If the problem is trivial one but the chance of ruining a relationship is high if you get into an argument about it, it’s probably worth it to let it go.
14. Encourage peace and calm, keeping emotions under control. If you or the other party is getting heated or starting to yell at the other, it’s probably best to take a deep breath and a short break. Nothing good will come out of a heated screaming match.
15. Be willing to give concessions. Everyone wants to “win” an argument and come out on top. However, this can lead to potential resentment in relationships, both business and personal. You may have to give a little to get a lot, which in the huge scope of things is better than letting resentment fester.